Bathrooms Are Not Separate-But-Equal

From The New Republic:

A Maine court case signals the next frontier of civil rights: transgender equality.

June 12, 2013

Where should a transgender schoolgirl be allowed to pee? To some, this may sound like a minor, insignificant question, but not to Nicole Maines, a 15-year-old transgender girl who attended Maine public schools. Born a boy biologically, Maines now self-identifies as a girl, dressing in girls’ clothing and sporting a typical 15-year-old girl’s hair and makeup. In addition to the harassment she faced from other kids, Maines also met intolerance by school officials, who refused to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom. Instead, in a remarkably insensitive decision, the school required her to use a staff bathroom after a grandparent of a male student complained that Maines shouldn’t be allowed in the little girls’ room.

Maines’ parents took her out of the school and sued the school, claiming their daughter’s potty segregation was a violation of Maine’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people on the basis of their gender identity. While Maine’s Human Rights Commission held that the transgender girl was entitled to use the girls’ bathroom, a state court judge disagreed. Maine’s Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear her case, the latest evidence that the next frontier of the civil-rights movement is transgender and transsexual equality.

We often talk about “LGBT rights,” but many of the reforms to date, like civil unions and marriage equality, are primarily benefiting the Ls and the Gs (and, by extension, the Bs). The legal issues surrounding full acceptance of trans-people are likely to be messier and more confusing—and bathrooms are proving a familiar flashpoint. In Colorado, for instance, the parents of a 6-year-old girl have challenged their local school district’s refusal to permit their daughter to use the girls’ room because, biologically, the girl was born a boy and retains male genitalia. School authorities said she can use any other bathroom in the school—the boys’ bathroom, the staff bathroom, or the one in the nurse’s office—just not the one for girls. In Arizona, lawmakers have been considering a bill to prohibit transgender people from using the biologically “wrong” bathroom. The Philadelphia City Council may go the other way, by requiring new city-owned buildings to include gender-neutral bathrooms.

Restrooms are one of the last explicit vestiges of segregation on the basis of sex. In a nation evolved enough to allow women to serve in combat and have women on the presidential ticket, we still maintain strict and outdated rules that discriminate in who can use which restroom. Even at liberal law schools like UCLA, where I teach, the bathrooms are all clearly marked for gender uses in a way that no one would accept for race: there are rooms labeled specifically for men and others specifically for women.

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Focus On The Family: Transgender Young People Don’t Exist In ‘Physical Reality’

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Jun 17, 2013

Numerous conservative groups are concerned about a bill (AB 1266) advancing in the California legislature that would recognize transgender young people’s identities in school, allowing them to use the facilities and play on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. Focus on the Family’s resident ex-gay Jeff Johnston lashed out at the bill, claiming that trans identities only exist in a “fantasy reality”:

The reality is that humans are born male or female. At birth we don’t “assign” sex to a child arbitrarily, as the analysis of this bill implies. We recognize the child’s sex – it is a physical reality. But in the world of this bill, that reality doesn’t matter. Like Cinderella in a fantasy world, a person may choose or change his sex, saying, “I can be whatever I want to be.”

But trans identities have nothing to do with who a person “wants to be”; it’s about who a person is. And sometimes, people’s mental understanding of their gender identity does not match the sex of the body they were born into. Denying the reality of their lived experience only serves to shame and stigmatize them, but won’t change their core identity.

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, an anti-LGBT hate group, argues that the “idea of socially constructed gender is very radical” and “not safe for the kids,” but there is no evidence to support his aspersions. In fact, the American Psychological Association recommends the passage of nondiscrimination protections like this California bill and any effort to recognize and affirm transgender people. It is that affirmation that best serves their mental well-being, not condemnation and erasure like these conservative groups propose.

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The Canary in the Coal Mine

From Huffington Post:


Last week was a roller coaster of emotions related to transgender issues for me. First, the announcement that the Social Security Administration will be changing the rules for altering your gender marker in their records is a giant administrative step forward. It does leave some giant questions about how the IRS will handle the influx of same-sex marriages in states without marriage equality, but it does not diminish the enormity of this advance.

The other big news was the release of the Pew study on LGBT people. It contained a ton of data, which people are still parsing through. However, when I read it from the perspective of a transgender person, I focused on things that the rest of the media hasn’t seemed to pick up on.

The study mostly ignored trans people, because it couldn’t get a significant sample size. Once again, data on transgender people was not captured, and as a result, trans activists are working in a data-poor environment. We can’t make good decisions in the absence of information. Specifically, we need to determine how to deal with the rest of the data in this survey, which paints an extremely negative picture of the battlespace as it stands for transgender people.

First, it showed that LGB people are somewhat better educated than the public at large but earn somewhat less. However, a previous NCTE study showed that the gap was even worse for the trans community. Trans people are, on average, a lot more educated but earn a lot less. Equal employment opportunity protections are the most important issue to LGBT people, ahead of even marriage. This should serve as a hint to the administration and Congress as to what’s really important to the community.

However, for transgender people, getting employment protections passed is proving maddeningly difficult, even in some Democrat-friendly states like New York. Four states have enacted marriage equality without providing workplace protections for transgender workers. While Delaware is on the verge of passing gender identity-based protections, states like Tennessee, Louisiana, and Idaho are going in the opposite direction, with state governments trying to nullify local ordinances.

This inability to gain protections for gender identity has a lot to do with public perceptions of transgender people. LGBT people feel that there is some to a lot of acceptance of bisexual women (78 percent), lesbians (85 percent), gay men (71 percent), and bisexual men (52 percent). Conversely 80 percent of LGB people said there is little to no acceptance of transgender people, and only 18 percent felt that there is some to a lot of acceptance. This gap should be a wakeup call in itself.

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Transgender city council candidate could become a first in NYC

From LGBTQNation:

Associated Press
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NEW YORK — If Mel Wymore wins a New York City council seat in the upcoming election, he would be the first openly transgender person elected to public office in America’s biggest city and one of only a handful ever in the U.S.

His campaign is neither emphasizing his personal story nor sidestepping it.

“I want to create the inclusive community, and it goes beyond my personal identity,” said Wymore, 51. “But it actually lends a lot to my story and my credibility as a candidate. I’m honest, I’m brave, I’m forthright, and I’m willing to stand up for change.”

Nationwide, at least five transgender people have won city, school board and judicial elections, including Mayor Stu Rasmussen in Silverton, Oregon. Perhaps dozens of others have run across the country.

They are bringing more attention to an issue that’s increasingly seen as a new frontier in rights debates. Recent local conflicts in the U.S. have involved the use of restrooms by transgender people, for example.

Wymore, a Democrat and systems engineer who has raised two children, had a happy childhood as Melanie Wymore. But the “exuberance” from childhood slipped away around puberty. At 35, Wymore reached a conclusion about why – and came out as a lesbian.

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Father’s Day as a Transgender Man

From Huffington Post:


I awake when the hotel door swings open. The sound of little feet padding past my bed tells me that the kids have returned with their mother. How did these two little ones manage to awaken, dress and leave the room without me noticing? Their entrances and exits are customarily boisterous, something that I can delight in as a visitor to this family but which eventually draws a strained look from their parents.

I can feign sleep no longer. I place my glasses on my face just in time to watch my friend Ezekiel’s son launch himself onto his father’s bed. His sister quickly follows suit. They are fairly bursting with what had enabled the not-small feat of their stealthy morning outing: “Happy Father’s Day!” they shout. Ezekiel’s head pops up from under a pile of blankets and children to flash me a sleepy smile.

As the two children explain their scone selections to their father, Ezekiel’s wife Gail puts down a tray with three large coffees and turns to me. “You get honorary Father’s Day coffee too,” she intones, mock-ceremoniously offering me a cup. I accept this small gift gratefully, touched. I feel as if the drink has faintly anointed me with the special glow of fatherhood.

I witness Ezekiel’s first Father’s Day in a Philadelphia hotel room, a block away from the Transgender Health Conference that has drawn 3,000 to the city. I surmise that there are numerous others within our community celebrating this first today, one pinnacle amongst the many precious firsts that transgender men experience throughout our gender transitions.

The only corollary imaginable is the joy of a transgender woman on Mother’s Day, should she choose to be a mother, and should she not be unnecessarily kept from seeing her children. She may reasonably consider every Mother’s Day to be celebrating her, including those before she emerged socially as a woman. A transgender woman is always a woman, whether acknowledged by others or not. And Ezekiel, our trans-masculine compatriots, and I have always been men.

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Transgender MS woman charged with murder after Selma resident dies from buttocks injections

From WSFA:

By John Shryock
Jun 17, 2013


Authorities in Mississippi are confirming that the suspect in a Selma resident’s death is now charged with murder after giving the patient injections to enhance her buttocks even though she had no medical training.

The victim, Marilyn Hale, died after the January 13, 2010 medical procedure.

This is the second death connected to the illegal medical procedures of Tracey Lynn Garner, 53, a transgender female who formerly went by the name Morris Garner.

WLBT-TV in Jackson says Garner is now facing two charges of depraved heart murder.

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Ultra Right Wing Republican Marco Rubio argues it should be legal to fire someone for being gay

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Ultra Right Wing Republican Sen. Ron Johnson argues it should be legal to fire someone for being gay

Florida’s Governor Signs Business-Backed Bill Banning Paid Sick Leave

From Think Progress:

By Bryce Covert
on Jun 17, 2013

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill on Friday that blocks local governments from implementing paid sick leave legislation, the Orlando Sentinel reports. He made his decision quickly, only taking four of the 15 days he legally had to review the bill before he signed it.

In signing the bill, Scott sided with big business interests including Disney World, Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The bill is part of a national effort to pass so-called “preemption bills” that would block paid sick leave legislation that is backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing group that coordinates conservative laws across states. The state’s House Majority Leader, Steve Precourt (R), who was instrumental in putting forward the preemption bill, is an active ALEC member.

The bill has made moot a 2014 referendum in Orange County that would have decided whether to require paid sick leave. More than 50,000 voters had tried to get the measure on the November 6 ballot but the County Commission voted it off. It made it on the ballot in 2014 thanks to a three-judge panel.

Florida follows a rash of preemption bills in the states, which cropped up in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi. These bills are part of ALEC’s efforts to weaken wage and labor standards: Since 2011, 67 such ALEC-affiliated bills have been introduced in state legislatures, 11 of which had been signed into law before Scott signed this bill.

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Republicans Are Passing ALEC Written Laws Banning Paid Sick Leave

From PoliticusUSA:

By: Rmuse
Jun. 18th, 2013

It is fairly well-known among Americans paying the least bit of attention to conservatives and Republicans that their primary concern is enriching corporations and promoting their so-called “free-market capitalism” meme as the be all, end all solution to America’s economic woes. Part and parcel of free-market capitalism is removing all constraints from businesses whether it is environmental regulations or workplace protections for employees who drive corporate profits with their cheap labor and purchasing their cheap Chinese-made products.  What is less well-known is that for 80 years Republicans have panted to eliminate New Deal provisions that protect workers and provide them with reasonably-safe working conditions including a 40-hour work week, safety inspections, and what Republican’s consider luxuries; bathroom and lunch breaks, overtime pay, and a woefully inadequate minimum wage. For the richest country in the history of the world, America offers its labor force some of the most meager benefits that the majority of develop countries consider downright pathetic, and if Republicans have their way, what few provisions American workers have now will be eliminated under the guise of advancing free market capitalism to put American labor on par with cheap peasant workers countries like China are renowned for.

The latest assault on American workers, like most assaults on the labor force, is courtesy of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and it is occurring in Florida where ALEC controls the governor and state legislature. At the urging of large corporate employers, and ALEC members, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed, a pre-emptive law making it illegal to pass legislation to provide paid sick leave to employees. That’s right, a state law banning local governments from implementing paid sick leave legislation to protect corporate employers such as Disney World, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and perennial enemies of labor, the Florida chapter of the Chamber of Commerce who all whole-heartedly supported the Draconian measure.

The law is one of ALEC’s fill-in template bills being introduced across the nation and an effort to pass “preemption bills” that will block any prospective paid sick leave legislation as part of the corporate drive to keep measures helping workers off the books before they can be proposed or voted on by legislatures or the public. In Florida, more than 50,000 voters attempted to get a required paid sick leave measure on the 2012 ballot, but it was thrown off by Republicans on the county commission and it took a three-judge panel to have it included on the 2014 ballot. Now, regardless the voters’ wishes, the measure is moot and it is down to the state’s Republican House Majority Leader, Steve Precourt (R-ALEC), who pressed the measure through the legislature and it is no surprise Precourt is an active ALEC member.

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What?! Florida just Outlawed Sick Leave

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The G8 comes to the “New Northern Ireland”, a place where no dissent will be tolerated

From The New Statesman:

“Could they not have just had the meeting on Skype?”

In Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, the streets are full of fake shop-fronts, designed to give the impression that empty stores are still selling things. Some of them are so realistic that locals have attempted to walk through doors that turn out to be painted on. The small Northern Irish town has 4.8 per cent unemployment, with an 82 per cent rise in redundancies last year, and a population of 14,000, plus about 3,000 police from all over Britain, plus a protest camp. It’s here that the 2013 G8 conference is taking place.

The G8 allows the world’s richest nations to come together without representatives of the global south blocking the corridors and raising inconvenient points in meetings, but that’s not its only function. It is also about pomp and show. It’s a pageant of neoliberal capitalism functioning whether local residents like it or not. That sort of pageantry requires the suppression of dissent, especially in a political climate where the elite’s only answer to a drop in living standards and a collapse of faith in democracy is to line up an epic number of police with water cannons and tear gas.

“They’ve spent fifty million on policing,” Gerry Carroll, an activist in Belfast, tells me. “For god’s sake, could they not have just had the meeting on Skype?”

Since the 2001 summit in Genoa was targeted by 200,000 protesters, all subsequent G8 meetings have been held in remote locations designed to be inaccessible to the general rabble; last year the gathering was due to come to Chicago, but the location was changed to Camp David after the Occupy movement promised to converge on the city. This year, the chosen pitch is tiny Enniskillen, a good two hours’ drive from Belfast even without roadblocks and hold-ups.

There has been an enormous uptick in police presence and capabilities both on the streets of Belfast and in rural County Fermanagh. Central Belfast was virtually shut down on Saturday during the peaceful march called by local left groups, where 3,000 demonstrators were met by an almost equal number of police, even though the G8 leaders weren’t even in the country yet. Local prison facilities have been expanded, horrifying residents. “One of the top stories on the news here in the North was that they’d spent millions building this facility – they’re so prepared for mass violence that they could lock up 300 people at will,” Sean Mitchell, an activist with the Irish anti-austerity group People Before Profit, tells me.

The choice to hold the G8 in Northern Ireland is an interesting one, designed in part to showcase the state’s newfound stability, but also to demonstrate the lengths to which local law enforcement is prepared to go to defend that stability. In his speech at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast this morning, Obama praised the people of Northern Ireland for their commitment to ending sectarian violence, saying that the peace process gave “the entire world hope.” He quoted Yeats and Heaney, made jokes about the craic, and spoke of sunny days free from the anticipation of violence. Outside it rained hard on 3,000 police, the sort of airless city rain that seems to come from all directions at once.

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We Need to Talk About Brazil

From Huffington Post:


Last week the governments of Rio and São Paulo, Brazil’s two biggest cities raised the cost of the bus fare by R$0.20 (£0.06). It might sound like a negligible amount of money, but it was enough to trigger the biggest public uprisings the country has seen in over two decades.
Of course the fare rise is merely the straw the broke the camel’s back. The last drop that made the cup run over. Insert favoured cliché here.

Brazilians have been portrayed internationally as laid back and fun-loving, perpetually inebriated by a cocktail of sunshine, cold beer and football. And while we might be happy to go along with the stereotype for the most part, there comes a time when we need to challenge the shackles holding us back.

Brazil might be the world’s sixth biggest economy but it is also a chronically corrupt and bureaucratic giant state. Decisions made at the top, hardly impact favourably those at the bottom. The country is plagued by endemic social inequality.

Billions of dollars have been spent on preparing for next year’s World Cup, R$27bn according to the federal government. Projects are already vastly over-budget and we are a year away. Meanwhile Brazil continues to invest below the OECD average in education. Public health expenditure is even lower.

Rio de Janeiro might be portrayed abroad as this hedonistic paradise of sunshine and beauty, but it is a city divided. It already consistently ranks amongst the most expensive cities in the world, while minimum wage remains low- R$678 (£200). São Paulo, the country’s financial centre is even worse. It is home to the highest concentration of private jets in the world, but the lower and middle classes have no access to decent schools and hospitals. At least in Rio we have the beach; in São Paulo, leisure for the poor is but a dream. The R$0.20 increase is significant because once again the financial burden is being shoved into the pockets of the poor. Rich people in Brazil have cars, big expensive imported cars.

When residents of the two cities took to the streets last week bearing placards and chanting slogans demanding answers, regional police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Many were arrested, included a reporter found to be carrying vinegar, a supposed antidote to tear gas. Another reporter was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet; he is thought to have lost his sight. Protests are on-going, with more manifestations planned for Monday evening; it is thought that 40 thousand people will take to the streets in Rio and many more in São Paulo.

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Turks invent new form of ‘standing’ protest to get around ban on gatherings

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A man stood still in Istanbul’s Taksim Square: silent, staring straight ahead, he had not moved for hours.

His peaceful action, on the square that police cleared of protesters on Saturday and where the Turkish authorities have banned gatherings, was a new form of protest.

He arrived Monday evening as night was falling and took up position in the middle of the square, just a stone’s throw from Gezi Park.

Five hours on, the man was still there, hands in his pockets, a bag and some bottles of water at his feet.

He was staring at a portrait of the revered founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk that hangs from the top of the old cultural centre. Ataturk who established Turkey as a secular state.

Word spread quickly online: on Twitter, the hashtags #Duranadam and #standingman ran a steady stream of comments, together with some photos on the event.

Hundreds of people approached the square to see for themselves.

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If people don’t do their own damn revolution, it won’t work

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Divestment Campaigners Look Beyond Fossil Free to Fund Solar Utopias

From Truth Out:

By Darwin BondGraham
Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Fresh from victories in Seattle and San Francisco, grassroots activists advocating city and college divestment from fossil fuel companies are already thinking big about how to reinvest the billions of dollars they want to free up. While very little money has actually been divested to date, the campaign is building connections between climate activists and renewable energy advocates. Where one group is attacking a problem, the other is offering a solution. However the goal of delegitimizing dirty energy companies and funding renewable energy futures is fraught with problems, including the notion of fiduciary responsibility, investment risk and narrow conceptions of social and environmental responsibility.

Divestment Alone Not the Goal

To date, divestment activists have succeeded in convincing six colleges to begin the process of removing university funds from oil company stocks like BP and Shell. A handful of churches and foundations have also begun this process. The city of Seattle’s commitment to divest – the first of any big US city – includes a pledge by the mayor to immediately scour the city’s $1.5 billion short-term investment pool for fossil fuel securities, and to eliminate them. San Francisco’s recent vote was a nonbinding resolution urging the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System to divest, and it’s unclear whether the pension’s board will follow through. Even so, many other cities and colleges are expected to vote on the issue by the fall.

Will it slow down the fossil fuel industry? Hardly.

Divestment from fossil fuel stocks is expected to have little effect on the values of company share prices or their abilities to raise capital and fund operations. Most large energy companies raise capital in the bond market, and most bond buyers are private investors. Many of the larger oil, gas and coal companies use internally generated profits to pay for new wells, pipelines and other infrastructure. Large global banks like JP Morgan and Wells Fargo provide lines of credit to oil companies like Chevron and Shell. Financing the fossil fuel industry is mostly a private affair guided purely by investors’ appetites for high yields.

“We’re not going to bankrupt them,” said Ophir Bruck about companies his student group is targeting for divestment. Bruck, a 3rd-year UC Berkeley student, pointed to the University of California’s enormous endowment and pension system, noting that each holds billions of dollars in coal, oil and gas company stocks and bonds. “Divestment is largely about hitting the reputations of these companies, their image as an industry, and in that sense removing their social license to operate. We want folks to associate their brand with the destruction of the earth’s climate system.” Students at various universities are therefore using divestment demands as a platform to engage boards of trustees and administrators in conversations about environmental destruction and social inequities, linking these to the profit motives of big oil.

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‘Every Plant And Tree Died’: Huge Alberta Pipeline Spill Raises Safety Questions As Keystone Decision Looms

From Think Progress:

By Kiley Kroh
on Jun 18, 2013

As the Obama administration’s decision regarding whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline draws nearer, the latest disaster is raising serious concerns about the safety of Canada’s rapidly expanding pipeline network.

A massive toxic waste spill from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta is being called one of the largest recent environmental disasters in North America. First reported on June 1, the Texas-based Apache Corp. didn’t reveal the size of the spill until June 12, which is said to cover more than 1,000 acres.

Members of the Dene Tha First Nation tribe are outraged that it took several days before they were informed that 9.5 million liters of salt and heavy-metal-laced wastewater had leaked onto wetlands they use for hunting and trapping.

“Every plant and tree died” in the area touched by the spill, said James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha.

As the Globe and Mail reports, the Apache disaster is not an anomaly:

The leak follows a pair of other major spills in the region, including 800,000 litres of an oil-water mixture from Pace Oil and Gas Ltd., and nearly 3.5 million litres of oil from a pipeline run by Plains Midstream Canada.

After those accidents, the Dene Tha had asked the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Alberta’s energy regulator, to require installation of pressure and volume monitors, as well as emergency shutoff devices, on aging oil and gas infrastructure. The Apache spill has renewed calls for change.

Following initial speculation that the leak stemmed from aging infrastructure, officials from Apache Corp. revealed that the pipeline was only five years old and had been designed to last for 30.

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The Price of Justice: Greed, Corruption and Big Coal

From Common Dreams:

by Russell Mokhiber

Check out this cast of characters.

Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy. He lives in a big house.

Hugh Caperton, a mine owner, who alleges that Massey drove him out of business. He lives in a big house.

Scott Segal, one of the wealthiest trial lawyers in West Virginia. And his wife, Robin Jean Davis, Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court. They live in one of the biggest houses in West Virginia.

Lawyers Bruce Stanley and David Fawcett. They have been suing Massey for over 14 years now. (The weird thing? Both Stanley and Fawcett work for big corporate law firms in Pittsburgh. Stanley for Reed Smith and Fawcett first for Buchanan Ingersoll and then for Reed Smith.)

Larry Starcher. He’s the former populist Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court who turned over his diary to Laurence Leamer.

Based on that diary and on years of reporting, Leamer has written a remarkable book The Price of Justice: A Story of Greed and Corruption (Times Books, 2013.)

Lawyers are generally familiar with the nutshell version of this story.

Caperton alleges that Massey destroyed his mining business by reneging on a contract to buy coal.

A jury in West Virginia agrees with Caperton and awards him $50 million.

Blankenship vows he’s not going to pay and fights the verdict.

But the West Virginia Supreme Court is split. And so Blankenship takes it upon himself to elect the next West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin.

He dumps $3 million into the campaign and gets Benjamin elected.

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